The Red Sox are beyond redemption at this point, their season long ago having been lost. But the best consolation prize in a city that thrives on revenge is delivering a damaging punch to the Yankees.
Jacoby Ellsbury celebrated his birthday in grand fashion Tuesday night, his walkoff single beating the Yankees, 4-3, and touching off an actual celebration at Fenway Park.
Ellsbury’s fourth hit of the night scored Pedro Ciriaco from second base and dropped the Yankees into a tie for first place in the American League East with the Orioles, who beat the Rays, 9-2.
The Yankees, who have lost eight of 12, have five more games left against the Sox. There is plenty of motivation on both sides of baseball’s best rivalry.
“Nothing would be more awesome than knocking these guys out of the playoffs,” said catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who noted the same would be true of the Rays and Orioles. “At this point, we have to accept this role and run with it.”
The Sox used three singles in the ninth to win the game. Yankee killer Ciriaco singled to left with one out against David Robertson (1-7) and took second on an infield single to the left side by Mike Aviles.
Ellsbury was next and he bounced a high changeup into right field. Ichiro Suzuki made an accurate throw to the plate but Ciriaco beat it and the Sox mobbed Ellsbury as he rounded first base.
“That was a great feeling,” Ellsbury said. “The fans were great tonight, they were into the game, energetic. Just trying to get a pitch I could drive. Just trying to get something I could hit to the outfield.”
Ellsbury, who turned 29, had his first four-hit game of the season. He also had an RBI single in the third inning and later scored on a single by Dustin Pedroia.
The last Sox player to have four hits on his birthday was Carl Yastrzemski Aug. 22, 1976.
“It was nice. It was a very nice win,” Ellsbury said. “It was nice to go out there and put on a show for the fans.”
Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the victory, his first with the Sox. It came with some valuable assistance from Lavarnway.
Nick Swisher singled with one out and was replaced by Eduardo Nunez. With Alex Rodriguez up, Nunez tried to steal second and was thrown out by Lavarnway. The rookie catcher had caught only one runner in 21 previous tries this season.
“Andrew did a great job of giving me a chance,” said Lavarnway, who started his third straight game in place of an injured Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “If he’s 1.5 [seconds] to the plate, I’m not throwing Nunez out. He gave me a chance. I handled the pitch well and [Pedroia] made a great tag.”
Bailey then ended the inning by striking out an overmatched Rodriguez with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.
“We know where we’re at. We’re just trying to come out here, play baseball and have some fun,” Bailey said. “This is a big series. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing but it’s always a little more exciting when you’re playing the Yankees.”
Bailey, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow threw 3⅔ scoreless innings in relief of an erratic Jon Lester. The bullpen allowed one hit and K’d four, giving the Sox a chance for only their third walkoff this season.
Lester allowed three runs on five hits over 5⅓ innings. He walked a career-worst seven, four to lead off innings.
In the third inning, when Lester walked Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, manager Bobby Valentine came to the mound for what was an animated conversation with the lefty. Lester was annoyed with the strike zone of umpire Chad Fairchild and seemed to be losing his focus.
In tones loud enough for Fairchild to hear, Valentine made his point.
Lester responded by striking out Russell Martin and Steve Pearce and escaped the inning without allowing a run. But he lost a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Derek Jeter dropped a two-run double into right field.
Lester’s five strikeouts gave him 1,044 for his career, passing Bruce Hurst for the most by a lefthander in Red Sox history. Lester is seventh overall.
Pedroia’s home run in the sixth inning off Hiroki Kuroda tied it. That helped lead to the ninth-inning revelry.
Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Ciriaco combined for nine of Boston’s 12 hits. Ciriaco was 2 for 3 with a sacrifice. He is 17 of 35 in nine games vs. the Yankees this season with 11 runs, seven RBIs, and four stolen bases.
Ciriaco also made two nice plays at third base.
“Not much fun. He’s been killing us this year,” Jeter said of Ciriaco. “His last at bat, the ball is almost on the ground and he gets a hit. He enjoys playing us.”
The Sox, who had lost 11 of 12, played like a team with something to prove.Continued...